The Fall Aspen Hunt

I just returned from another incredible photography expedition, this time to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. I had a number of photographic goals for this trip, one of which included capturing the changing colors of the aspen trees in Grand Teton.

Turns out it wasn't so easy. I had several ideas for what I wanted the final image to look like, but finding trees that were cooperating with my vision was more challenging than expected. The aspens that made a nice composition hadn't yet experienced the change of color that I wanted. The colorful trees weren't located in an area yielding a great composition.

After five days of hunting, I finally found some aspen clusters on the edge of the park boundary where I captured the following compositions. It was incredibly rewarding to finally discover a few aspen stands that had the mature golden yellow leaves that I wanted! 

Shot with the Leica SL.

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Writing Revolutions: What is Involved in Authoring a Photography Book?

Writing "Revolutions" represents the greatest professional accomplishment of my career as a photographer, but it was also far more difficult than I ever expected. Today I am reflecting back on the experience to share a look behind-the-scenes at what it took to write "Revolutions".

Mindset

It was important to me that "Revolutions" was done correctly. First, this was the first book I was going to write, and if I did a poor job, it would be the last book anyone would ever buy. The success of any future second book hinges on the first. Secondly, there is something very motivating about knowing you are making something with your name on the front. People can come read my blog and form an opinion about me without ever knowing my name, but that's just not the case with a book. My reputation is right there, front and center. Pride is a good reason to do something the correct way.

Beyond those motivations, I was also compelled by the desire to produce art. Each image contained in the book is artwork, and I wanted the final compilation of these images to be its own piece of artwork. This book is like a miniature gallery exhibit of my work - one that fits in a bag or sits on a coffee table. Most photo books do not feature a narrative story to accompany the images, so "Revolutions" represented two art forms - photography and writing - that needed to be combined into one perfect medley.

Finally, every accomplished photographer I know has written a book, and I believe that is one of the many ways to distinguish between photographers who really care about their craft, and those who consider this a hobby. Sure, you don't have to write a book to be a serious artist (there are many photographers who make a full-time living without writing books!), but I have always seen the time and resource commitment needed to publish a book is a good measure of how serious the artist is about their tradecraft.

Wedding photographers have the benefit of paying customers, but I have never been paid by any of the trees I have photographed. Sadly, writing a book is one of the harder ways to make money as a photographer, because the financial investment required to generate the product is insanely high. In the era of free blogs, who is going to pay money to read?

The Writing

Writing "Revolutions" was the easy part. During the course of the month long road trip that makes up the narrative and photographic story, I took detailed notes and transcribed records of the days. At the end of the journey, I had nearly 40 typed pages of notes and 60 pages of handwritten notes. The book is basically an edited version of those notes; I removed the "blah blah blah" and adjusted the story to articulate only the best parts of the adventure.

Originally I had structured the book into two sections: one with the photographs and one with the narrative story. The reason for this was that I did not want to have to display the photographs in chronological order, which was the logical ordering of images if they were intermixed with a story that was told in chronological order. 

But when we got to editing, that plan was scrapped.

The Editing

Asking someone to edit a book like this is a tricky prospect; I needed someone who would be brutally honest and unafraid of hurting my feelings. Someone who can write better than I can. Thankfully, I know someone just like that! I enlisted the help of a trusted friend and worked on preparing a manuscript that I could present for editing.

A few weeks later, Clara, my editor, was given a hard copy printed transcript of the book that was made at Office Depot. I had generated PDFs of the book from my computer, but that would be hard for her to mark up. I felt like the editor should benefit from being able to turn real pages! With $20 and a copy machine, I created a manuscript that could be viewed in "book form" and allowed Clara to write, scribble, and mark up the thing mercilessly.

Good thinking on my part, because I got a red pen (and permanent marker!) covered book back! Clara suggested some major edits to the story, including to tell it as one story with photographs and text intermixed. At first I was down on the idea - I had spent months putting the book into this format - but upon reflection, I realized Clara was right. There was too much text at one end of the story and the photographs lacked context when not paired with words. 

So I rewrote the whole book.

The transcript I provided to my edtor, Clara. Not only did she mark up the whole document, she even attached additional pages of comments.

The transcript I provided to my edtor, Clara. Not only did she mark up the whole document, she even attached additional pages of comments.

The original version of the book was too text heavy - pages were full of content that really didn't add to the story and would ultimately put a reader to sleep. Clara helped me find that content and remove it, resulting in a cleaner and more enjoyable finished product.

The original version of the book was too text heavy - pages were full of content that really didn't add to the story and would ultimately put a reader to sleep. Clara helped me find that content and remove it, resulting in a cleaner and more enjoyable finished product.

The Re-Write

Following my review of Clara's edits, I re-wrote the entire book. This took months longer than I expected. I would read it one day, like it, then hate it the next. I had to walk away from the project for days at a time to regain the vision needed to see the project clearly. My motivation waivered; I had exhausted months of work and had almost nothing to show for it. On several occassions, I thought about throwing in the towel and declaring the book a source of personal memories.

But I persisted.

Slowly and steadily, I wrote, deleted, wrote, re-wrote, deleted, and wrote again. After a few months, I was ready to look at a transcript again. This time, I decided to order a printed copy of the book that was actually bound and printed in color. I figured this would help me visualize those errors and improvements that still needed to be made, but that I couldn't visualize on a computer screen.

The First Final

Printing a transcript in book format turned out to be a great strategy. I found lots of content, typos, and aesthetics that I wanted to adjust. For instance, the font needed to be smaller, section titles more prominent, and more blank space on every page. These aesthetic tweaks needed to be seen to be recognized.

After a few more weeks, I had re-built the whole book for (what felt like) the millionth time.  Before ordering another copy, I decided to set the whole thing aside for a month. I needed time to forget what the book looked like. To forget how each word read. To detach and come back fresh.

A month later, I returned and found that I was very happy with the text. There were a few typos that I had missed, but I didn't find any major changes. So I shelled out for another bound copy of the book.

A screenshot of the internal page layout of pages 2 and 3 in the final copy of the book. The photo will be creased down the center to form both pages, and if you look carefully, you can see where part of the image repeats just slightly in the center where the binding is placed.

A screenshot of the internal page layout of pages 2 and 3 in the final copy of the book. The photo will be creased down the center to form both pages, and if you look carefully, you can see where part of the image repeats just slightly in the center where the binding is placed.

The Final-Final

Alas, I had nailed it. Almost nine months after the first words were typed into a Microsoft Word document, the final book had taken shape. You don't have to work hard to see the evolution in the book between the various versions! With the book done, it was time to move onto the public relations part - promoting the sale of the book.

Two proofs of the book - opened to the same page. The top book (right) is the first version, while the one in the background (left) was the final transcript of the book. You can see the font size, spacing, title, and asthetics of the pages changed significantly between each version.

Two proofs of the book - opened to the same page. The top book (right) is the first version, while the one in the background (left) was the final transcript of the book. You can see the font size, spacing, title, and asthetics of the pages changed significantly between each version.

Two book covers - the cover had minimal changes to the front, just a slight shift in the location of the author name.

Two book covers - the cover had minimal changes to the front, just a slight shift in the location of the author name.

The back cover got a major overall; the top book is the final product, while the bottom one was the earlier draft.

The back cover got a major overall; the top book is the final product, while the bottom one was the earlier draft.

The Printing

With the book finished, it was time to look at printing it. This was the part I was dreading - asking people for money. But the reality was that there is no way to make a book even quasi-affordable without raising enough money to print several hundred copies. Each individual copy, if purchased al le carte, ran upward of $120/book! My target price was $50/book, meaning I needed to raise enough money to get several hundred copies printed at once, in a process called offset printing. 

In the End

This was, without question, much harder than I ever anticipated. Getting a book that qualified as artwork, a book I would put my name on, and a book I could share with the world was a pain in the butt. I have learned an incredible amount about writing a book and the process, which is good - because I'm going to need all the help I can get in generating motivation to ever write another book! I hope you have found this short write up about the process of writing a book helpful and enlightening.... and I hope it gives you a new appreciation of the arts.

Purchase a copy of Revolutions as a book or e-book today!

Posing with the final copy of my book, Revolutions.

Posing with the final copy of my book, Revolutions.

Review: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About an Escape Campervan

This will be a living blog post - so if there is something I didn't cover, send me an email and I'll update it! Last updated: 7 Jan 2017

Be sure to watch this video tour of the van that I recorded, as it covers some of the same information and provides a visual to accompany this!

Take a tour of our Escape Campervan - home to the Scenic Traverse Road Trip for the past month. More information about the trip, including photos and other videos can be found at www.ScenicTraverse.com

Greetings! Chances are, you Googled and came to this article, which professes to be everything you need to know about Escape Campervans. That is a half truth. Really the article should be titled “Practical things that people who are thinking of renting an Escape Campervan ought to know” - but that seemed a bit long.

Anyway, welcome. Let me first introduce myself for the uninitiated in the group - I’m Kristen Meister, a professional photographer and Scenic Traverse is my domain. In December 2016, I rented an Escape Campervan for a month, and drove over 3,682 miles in it. I spent 27 nights sleeping in the van, and I feel that has earned me ‘expert’ status in the art of road tripping in one of these vans. I rented the Mavericks model, which is the bigger of the vans rented by Escape, and is built in a Ford chassis. 

Who should rent a camper van from Escape?

Other than the obvious qualifiers of someone who likes to be outdoors, explore, and isn’t afraid of a little adventure….. for a trip of this length, I would not recommend more than two adults in one of these vans. In the summer, if we had the roof top tent thingy equipped, I could argue that one or two other passengers could attend, but it’d get really cozy, really fast.

The van, which I nicknamed "Sulley" on Malibu Beach

What is the van? How does this work?

This is basically a 12 passenger van - like the airport shuttles - modified into a camper. It has a convertible bed/sitting area, a pull out kitchen, and enough creature comforts to feel homey for a long trip. You don’t need special driver’s licenses to drive one.

I picked up our van in Los Angeles, California, and the awesome staff was happy to let me choose from an assortment of vans on the lot. Since I were going to be gone so long, I prioritized van ‘newness’ and tire tread above all else. I found a nice van with only 77,000 miles and almost brand new tires painted in an Avatar theme - which happens to be my favorite movie - and were set.

After a quick introduction to the van, I moved in and was off….. 

Sulley, the neon mushroom van!

What does Escape provide?

For the money, a rental from Escape is an extremely good value. Not only are you renting the van, but they include a lot of the basic gear you’d need anyway, which minimizes overhead for trip planning. They include (in no particular order):

Kitchen:

  1. A small pull-out drawer refrigerator. If you are well organized and play Tetris, then you can easily fit 4-5 days worth of food in there. We even managed some craft brews amongst the meals. See note below on electricity.

  2. A standard propane gas two burner stove and two tanks of propane.

  3. Some basic pots and pans, cups, cutlery, cutting board, and a towel.

  4. A sink that is vacuum pump operated. The fresh water tank on board holds a little more than 5 gallons. There is also a dump tank for holding sink waste water. This isn’t sewage - just sink water.

  5. A battery powered light useful for cooking in the dark (this is mounted to the roof, so you can’t use it around the campsite).

The back of the van opens to reveal the kitchen area. The bottom right drawer is a small fridge. There is a stove on the left side.

Fully stocked with a week of groceries and the all important craft brews (don't drink and drive, enjoy your brew after parking for the night!)

The pull out camp stove

Electricity

  1. There is obviously the normal car battery deal to start the car. We can skip that.

  2. What you care about is the plug-in electricity and the solar electricity. Let’s start with solar…. on the roof, above the crew area of the van, is a solar panel that collects sun and charges the onboard battery that powers the refrigerator and cooking lamp. This is all done automagically! You will hear the faint sound of the compressor for the fridge turn on in the middle of the night, but it’s incredibly quiet.

  3. Depending where you camp, you may have the option for plug-in power. Essentially they provide a long extension cord and a plug adapter (should you need it for the campsites). You have to crack a window and run it in that way. They also provide a power strip so you can charge cameras, laptops, phones, etc. It also powers the heater….. (see staying warm).

  4. There are three cigarette lighter things in our van - two up front and one in the passenger area (near the table). A cigarette to USB lighter adapter thingy is a must-have, and Escape sells them for like $5.

  5. I used a power inverter to plug in laptops and other electronics and charge them via the 12V cigarette lighter for the days when electricity was not available at the campsite.

Ok, not the best photo ever, but you can see the solar panel on the roof of the van

Ok, not the best photo ever, but you can see the solar panel on the roof of the van

Running the extension cord up in the window of the suicide doors

The all important (at least in winter) space heater. Provided by Escape

The all important (at least in winter) space heater. Provided by Escape

Bedding

  1. The camper van comes equipped with a flip down convertible bed / dining area. When in bed configuration, it’s roughly the size of a queen bed.

  2. Escape provides some linens for use in the van - thats two pillows, a fitted sheet, and a comforter / blanket. They are clean and 100% came from Ikea.

The empty main seating area. The bench folds flat (like a futon), the table breaks down, and there are spare cushions (not seen) that create the final bed.

The empty main seating area. The bench folds flat (like a futon), the table breaks down, and there are spare cushions (not seen) that create the final bed.

Staying warm

  1. This was a great concern of mine, particularly since I went during the winter and it often hovered near freezing at night. Not to worry - Escape will send you with another comforter for the bed, and you have a small space heater that can be used at campsites with electricity. I found that placing it in the kitchen area and using the auto thermostat mode was very helpful - it kept the camper comfortable at night by automatically turning on and off.

  2. I would also recommend traveling with layers for bedtime. This is particularly handy when you inevitably have to pee at 1am and need to leave the warmth of the van.

  3. Finally, I also brought our camping sleeping bags in compression sacks and a small blanket to add to the warmth.

Storage

  1. This was my greatest stress before I arrived. Would I have enough storage space? I actually rented the roof top storage box and ended up not needing it, so I never had it mounted.

  2. There are a few tricks to storage - the first is to pack into luggage that collapses and can be left at their depot. Second, you get a huge storage space if you stack the small thin pillows for the bed. Third, you have a big storage bin behind the kitchen. And finally, collapsable cloth storage buckets are your friend.

It may not look very organized, but the buckets on the ground under the table helped hold all the cameras and electronics. There are similar bins behind the couch holding clothes.

It may not look very organized, but the buckets on the ground under the table helped hold all the cameras and electronics. There are similar bins behind the couch holding clothes.

This is why I had to get organized - thats all my camera gear for the trip!

This is why I had to get organized - thats all my camera gear for the trip!

It may not look it, but the van is super clean. The orange towel on the ground served as a doormat. You can also see where I stacked the cushions on the right to create more storage area in the wooden box below.

It may not look it, but the van is super clean. The orange towel on the ground served as a doormat. You can also see where I stacked the cushions on the right to create more storage area in the wooden box below.

Modifications and Van Hacks

Here are a few recommended ‘hacks’ for your van - designed to help make living in it as comfortable as possible. Have a hack I didn't list? Email me and I'll add it (and give you credit!)

  1. Get organized. Seriously. I brought (and then bought) a few collapsable storage boxes and that made a huge difference. Walmart sells these for a few bucks each - they are a god send. I stored clothes, camera gear, food… you name it. The buckets make it easy to move things around the van - like moving daytime gear into the front seat during nighttime bed configuration.

  2. Buy $10 in egg crate mattress toppers for the bed. As is, the bed is very comfortable. But you can feel the seams where the pillows merge, and a quick foam topper will resolve that issue and make it even more awesome.

  3. You can bring some simple rope and craft a rigging line in the back to hold lanterns, keys, watches, headlamps, etc at night. I used what is called “550 cord” and is sold at most outdoor stores. Mine was an X shape and made it easy to have lights and accessories at hand.

  4. REI and outdoors stores sell microfiber towels that are nice and small. I had two in the back for drying dishes, one in the main area that served like a doormat, and one in the front to wipe condensation from the windshield in the mornings.

  5. Clothespins are great for helping to keep the blackout curtains in the van closed.

  6. Bring a laundry bag to shove dirty clothes in, as that helps keep the clothes piles organized

  7. Use a spare plastic grocery bag as a trashcan for the front driving area

  8. Download some audio books to listen to during your drives.

  9. Leave the freshwater tank drain opened at a slight crack as you drive, so the water can slowly drip out.

  10. Buy a cheap pair of gloves (like dishwashing gloves) to keep your hands clean as you handle the water tank drain.

  11. If it is well below freezing overnight, the water tank can freeze. If there is something you want to keep from becoming frozen, pull it out and place it near the heater overnight. This was never really a huge problem - I just had to defrost our Dawn dish soap and some jars of Nutella.

  12. Keep your van clean, because random strangers will ask to look inside. I was stopped at gas stations, parking lots, and at restaurants and asked to show off the inside. Don't have a pair of underwear sitting someplace you don't want people to see, because they will peer in the windows in the parking lots. It's alright, it's also good security. No thief will break into a van that has that much attention.

  13. In the summer, I would recommend renting an extra table from Escape so you have more workspace. In the winter it was too cold to ever eat outside the van.

  14. If you don't need the extra seating space, you can pull one of the bed cushions out of the storage box and double stack them, allowing you to have a ton more storage space (see the video above to understand this).

  15. The van will get roughly 16 miles per gallon, which isn’t bad, all things considered. I know this isn't a 'hack' but it's still good to know!

  16. If you are traveling for any length of time, you will need more propane tanks. I used four during the month.

  17. Having a pair of spare shoes besides hiking boots is nice for driving and those 1am bathroom trips. I had a pair of slip-on TOMS.

  18. It pays huge dividends to be organized. I cannot stress this enough. I carried a moleskin book that contained our itinerary, locations of grocery stores, recipes, addresses, and trip diary.

  19. Tools like carabiners, mutli-tools, and pocket knives have about 100,000 uses in a van like this. I used a carabiner to hang the car keys up at night so I didn’t loose them amongst all the bedding.

  20. You can run the extension cord in the small window on the suicide door, or up the back through the rear doors.

Some road trip games

Some road trip games

I had to add air to the tires when the cold weather dropped the tire pressure. Most gas stations will have pumps, but it's another reason to have some quarters on hand.

I had to add air to the tires when the cold weather dropped the tire pressure. Most gas stations will have pumps, but it's another reason to have some quarters on hand.

That's five days of groceries. I paid a little extra at stores to buy pre-chopped veggies and fruits to save on the amount of prep and clean up required for meals.

That's five days of groceries. I paid a little extra at stores to buy pre-chopped veggies and fruits to save on the amount of prep and clean up required for meals.

Recommended packing / shopping list

OK, this is a stretch. I’m not going to tell you to pack underwear - this list is the extras that you’ll want or need to make your trip awesome.

  1. Clorox disinfecting wipes for the kitchen

  2. A collapsable water jug (many water fill stations wont have a hose for you to use to fill the van’s tank).

  3. A set of small quick-dry travel towels. I used two in the kitchen for drying pots and one in the front to wipe condensation off the windows. They will get fogged up overnight as you sleep.

  4. Your own set of pots / pans / dishes. If you like to cook, and if you already own a set of camping pots and pans, you may want them. What Escape provides is fairly basic. We had a set from REI that was two big pots and a skillet, plus a smaller pot for boiling water for coffee, etc.

  5. Your own set of plates and bowls - again, what they give is fine, but I already had some of this and it was worth bringing. For instance - I have Yeti cups and tumblers with lids that were great for drinking hot coffee / tea.

  6. Your own kitchen knife. I bought one at REI for $15 that was awesome. The one they give isn’t very sharp, and if you are cooking and chopping a lot, you’ll appreciate your own.

  7. A lighter / matches

  8. If it will be cold, suggest bringing a sleeping bag to use with their blankets.

  9. You may want an extra pillow - available for $3.44 at Wal-mart

  10. Lanterns and lights. They don’t supply anything besides the back cooking one. Headlamps and little lanterns are a must-have.

  11. Basic cooking tools - an extra spatula, slotted spoon, bottle opener, chip clips, measuring cups…..

  12. Trash bags. I got small ones in a 36 pack that let us throw away the trash every day and keep the camper smelling lovely.

  13. Roll of quarters to do laundry

  14. Clothes pins (in case you want to do some sink laundry, or for the aforementioned hack)

  15. A multi-tool

  16. Car GPS

  17. Laundry bag

  18. Water bottles

  19. Aux input cable for the stereo

  20. Cord / rope for a rigging system

  21. Laundry detergent and dryer sheets

  22. Paper towels

  23. Dish soap

  24. Spare batteries for lanterns, flashlights, cameras, etc

  25. Wet wipes

  26. Hand sanitizer

  27. Aluminum foil

  28. A small tarp (in case it rains and you want to cook, you can rig it over the kitchen area)

  29. Flip flops (to wear in the showers at campgrounds)

  30. Towels

  31. Re-usable grocery bags (California charges per bag!)

A pair of microfiber towels from REI for drying dishes

A pair of microfiber towels from REI for drying dishes

Your imagination is the limit when it comes to van dinners. I steamed a pot of crab legs and shrimp, along with drawn butter and a local California wine!

Your imagination is the limit when it comes to van dinners. I steamed a pot of crab legs and shrimp, along with drawn butter and a local California wine!

Have fun! Van life is incredible, and will take you to some amazing places!

Have fun! Van life is incredible, and will take you to some amazing places!

What did I forget? If you have rented a van, send me your hacks to include!

ST Road Trip: Big Sur Update

Good morning! We have started the final leg of the #ST_roadtrip with a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, aka California Rt. 1. Despite some really crummy weather, we enjoyed Big Sur, and stopped at some beaches like Pfieffer Beach to enjoy the view. Taking photos was tricky-I was using a neutral density filter to get long exposures, but the rain kept getting the front of the filter and lens covered in raindrops. Eventually I started using my hat to cover the camera lens in an attempt to keep it dry, and that worked! The big waves crashing over the rocks left this awesome view, and you can see the splashes in the rock holes in this photograph, which was taken with the @leica_camera SL. 

ST Road Trip: Lake Tahoe Update

I was never supposed to take this photograph, because I was never supposed to be in Lake Tahoe as part of the #ST_roadtrip. But when road closures due to winter weather made our route to Yosemite impractical to drive, we elected to recalibrate - and went to Lake Tahoe instead. There I found lots of large, snow covered boulders and crystal clear water to entertain myself with, and entertained I was! Taken with the @leica_camera SL. 

ST Road Trip: New Year's Update

Let's kick off the new year with a bang... this is one of my favorite photos from the #ST_roadtrip, taken at Badwater Basin in Death Valley. I had to hike several miles into the salt flats to get these gorgeous geometric designs for the foreground. This is a composite panorama photo- the bottom (the salt flats) is a panorama of three vertically oriented images, while the top (the stars) is a panorama of two horizontally oriented images. Although shooting it as a composite like that significantly increases the amount of work in Adobe Photoshop to create the final image, it has the benefit that I can now print this photograph in a massive format. Taken with my sidekick for the trip- the @leica_camera SL and 24-90mm lens. 

ST Road Trip: Rhyolite Update

Outside Death Valley (and even within the park), are reminders of America's history in the form of ghost towns. We explored one of those towns, called Rhyolite. This town in the desert cropped up to support nearby mining, and contained schools, an opera house, a bank, and train station. But the city was abandoned almost as quickly as it was formed when the mining ores were depleted by 1911. This photograph was taken looking through a rail car that had once served the area- the contrast of the red exterior paint and turquoise inside paint was too wonderful for words. Taken with the @leica_camera SL. 

ST Road Trip: Death Valley Update

"Badwater Basin is bad for sunsets" is what I was told. I disagree! The salt flats of the Basin represent the lowest place in North America, roughly -330ft below sea level. The salt has dried and hardened in these wonderful geometric patterns, and finding pieces that hadn't been disturbed by thousands of hikers required hiking several miles into the Basin. The flats are otherworldly- I have never seen or experienced anything like these before. Most enjoyable was walking around in search of interesting designs for the foreground, and I particularly like how this one salt trail leads your eye into the image. This was taken with the @leica_camera SL and 24-90mm lens.

ST Road Trip: Merry Christmas

Wishing you a #merrychristmas and #happyhanukkah! We have spent the holiday in Las Vegas (we wanted to find someplace that wouldn't be closed for Christmas, and Sin City fits the bill!) and are off to Death Valley tomorrow as the #ST_roadtrip continues. I am thankful for everyone who has followed our journey and wish you all a happy holiday with family and friends. PS- this is the closest we have come to a holiday tree! Taken with the @leica_camera SL in Zion National Park. 

ST Road Trip: Valley of Fire Update

I am incredibly behind in sharing photos from the #ST_roadtrip, which I blame on a lack of internet connection. Anyway, with some recent rain, we shuffled the schedule and spent this morning in the Valley of Fire State Park, which is only a short drive from Las Vegas. While the rain had subsided, the clouds were thick and dramatic, which gave a nice light for shooting the brilliantly colored rocks. There's a reason this is called Valley of Fire.... I have never seen such a rainbow of colors on rocks. I particularly like this photograph, which I took with the @leica_camera SL and 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux in an area called Fire Wave. We are spending the holiday in Vegas, so that should offer some reliable internet for catching up on the vast stack of photos! 

ST Road Trip: Zion (The Narrows) Update

We had an incredible day hiking the Narrows in Zion NP today- it's one of the most iconic and unique hike in the USA because it requires hikers to wade in water that is often thigh deep. I took a ton of awesome photos today, but am sharing this one first because it's a view of Zion only possible during the winter. The ice formations seen on the right come from "weeping rock"- the water is dated as being over 1,000yrs old before seeping out of the rock face. That's incredible. The reflection in the blue/ green water of the Virgin River and tunnel walls of the canyon round out the image. This was taken with my @leica_camera SL and 24-90mm lens, which was equipped with a polarizing filter to cut glare. The camera equipment was all carried in a dry bag to protect it as we hiked up the river. 

ST Road Trip: Zion Update

Gosh.... where to begin?!? We have been in Zion National Park for the past two days, which has been awesome for two reasons: 1) it's nice to be looking up at rocks rather than down in canyons for a change and 2) it's significantly warmer here, so it's more enjoyable to get out and hike. Today we hiked over 8 miles and I took a ton of awesome photos, so choosing which to share first has been challenging. This photograph was taken at sunset on the Pa'rus Trail - a small wisp of clouds on the horizon provided the contrast and texture for some nice colors. While the sunset became more pink later, I prefer this image as there is soft light hitting the side of the rock cliffs and illuminating the valley. As always, this was taken with the @leica_camera SL Type 601 and 24-90mm lens. The incredible part is that I didn't use any filters or accessories to get this shot.... this is almost exactly as it came out of the camera! Personally, I think it looks more like a painting than a photograph. 

ST Road Trip: Bryce Canyon Update

When we decided to include Bryce Canyon on our itinerary for the #ST_roadtrip, I made a point of wishing our arrival would coincide with a fresh snowfall in the canyon, as images of the brilliant orange rocks dusted with white snow were always my favorites. As luck would have it, our timing did coincide with a snowfall.... and a deep freeze. Temperatures in the area hovered at a daytime high of 10*F, and we had gone out photographing star trails when it was -8*F. But (assuming I wore every article of clothing I own) I had my chance to get those snow covered canyon images I dreamt of taking. This is one of a dozen images I made- I love how the snow accentuates all the detail in the rocks. Taken with the @leica_camera SL and 24-90mm lens. 

ST Road Trip: Night Sky Update

Photography is a form of art.... though most people don't think they are making artwork when they whip out their cell phone cameras. But for those of us who study light, texture, contrast, color and who obsess over capturing that one decisive moment.... it's art. Picasso took many liberties with the human form, MC Escher bent the laws of physics, and so - sometimes - as a photographer, I too "break the rules". This photograph breaks a few rules.... but it's all real. Everything you see here was captured by me with my @leica_camera SL.... but it's not possible to make this photograph in a single click of the shutter. A little photographers magic is required, and that's okay. I am not trying to present this as a documentary of reality, rather as an expression of what my eyes and mind saw. 

Brrrr.... A cold front has moved through Moab, and with it came some ice and snow. Of course this made for some interesting photographs of snow on the brilliant orange arch rock formations of Arches National Park, but it also tested my resolve for photos like this! Since a clear night was in the forecast, we stayed at an area called "The Windows" until darkness fell. We were the only idiots out there in the freezing temps, but the view of the nights sky helped keep us warm. Thousands of stars, constellations and even the Milky Way were out, and the silhouette of the crazy rock formations was the perfect framing for some star trails. Thanks to the WiFi capability and Leica SL app, I was able to setup the camera for this 10 minute exposure and then retreat to the warmth of the car for a few minutes! Hopefully the clear sky persists tonight, though it is expected to get even colder on our next stop.... Bryce Canyon. 

ST Road Trip: Arches Update

The rock arch formations of @archesnps have been photographed millions of time... so how do you create something unique and different? I wanted to use the natural holes and rock formations to create some interesting abstract silhouettes. This silhouette worked perfectly- the back lighting at Turret Arch allowed me to cast the arch in almost pure black, while preserving just a touch of that orange rock flair. The result is very interesting.... personally, I think the right hole looks a bit like a raven (which is a common bird in the park). What do you think? Shot with the Leica SL.